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Illinois DCFS Director Marc Smith hit with eighth contempt of court order over improperly placed teen

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc Smith has now been slapped with an eighth contempt of court order for failing to place a teen in the department's care appropriately.

The order was issued by Juvenile Court Judge and former County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy.

In this case, a 14-year-old girl was taken into temporary DCFS custody last September. Since then, she has been moved 21 times. She was stuck in a psychiatric hospital and was then moved around to different shelters, hospital emergency rooms, DCFS offices, and emergency foster placements. 

In February, the judge ordered DCFS to place the teen in a residential facility. That order was not carried out, and the teen ran away.

The judge then issued a second order that DCFS was to immediately place the youth in a residential facility as soon as she was found. Again, that court order was not followed. 

In court, the DCFS listed facilities where they are trying to get her placed, and said some residential homes are not available due to staffing issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The department has filed appeals on several of these court orders, which have included $1,000-a-day fines until the youth is properly placed.

Three other contempt orders came down against Smith earlier this month. Two involved youth in care who have been languishing in psychiatric hospitals long after they were ready to be medically discharged. One of those children is just 11 years old, and has been ready to get out of a psychiatric hospital since last April.

The third involved a 16-year-old boy who has spent more than 375 days – almost the whole time he has been in DCFS custody – in a shelter that does not have the resources to support his needs given his intellectual and cognitive disabilities.

A Cook County Juvenile Court judge also held Smith in contempt in three other recent cases due to DCFS' failure to get those children into appropriate care.

Judge Murphy on Thursday also brought up the issue of the DCFS not having placements for older teens who are ready to get out of residential facilities. At one point recently, there were about 150 teenagers stuck in residential facilities. 

Until they are properly placed, other children can't get in for the care they need.   

Late in January, lawmakers held a virtual hearing on the DCFS, with some even suggesting overhauling the department if Smith can't right the ship.

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